Go Deeper: A Loving Community

What is the greatest problem in the church today? Is it a lack of teaching or Bible study? Is it a lack of evangelism or compassion? Is it a shortage of ministries? Could it be that the greatest problem in the church today is much simpler than any of those ideas? Jesus taught his followers to “love one another” as He had loved them. He went on to say that their love for each other was the characteristic that would identify them to the world. Is it possible that the greatest problem in the church is that we don’t really love each other? What does the world see when they look at the Christian community?

In the book of Colossians, Paul gives us one of many descriptions of this loving community that believers are to strive to create. It is love for each other that holds this community together. This week, we will look at the characteristics of a loving community. In the end, it is this kind of community that glorifies God and identifies us as followers of Jesus to a world that desperately needs Him!

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Hope in Brokenness

The book of Lamentations is a sad book. The mere title of the book contains the word “lament”. It is literally Jeremiah’s weeping over his sins and the sins of the land of Judah. He is lamenting as he watches the judgment of God come upon his people as a result of their rebellion. Jeremiah reveals his unhappiness and depression over and over again. In fact, as you read Lamentations, it becomes very clear tat Jeremiah is in need of a therapist! He’s lost hope. Maybe you have lost hope as well. Perhaps you are lamenting over things that you have done, or weeping over the sin and destruction you see in others. Maybe Jeremiah’s words of sadness are your words as well.

Despite the circumstances, there was inded hope. Jeremiah found that hope in the character of God. Despite His discipline, there were some things about God’s character that Jeremiah found great hope in. So can you. In the middle of chapter 3 we are reminded that God’s mercies never cease. . .His compassion never fails. . .His faithfulness is great. . .and that He is forever good. Jeremiah chose to anchor himself to God’s character in the midst of his brokenness. Will you?

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“Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you so you also must do.”  – Colossians 3:13

Perhaps you consider yourself a forgiving person, but you are now facing someone whom you cannot forgive. Whenever you struggle to forgive, you need to revisit what you were like when God forgave you. Ephesians 2 indicates you were a “foreigner” and a child of wrath.” Yet God forgave your most grievous sin and rebellion against Him. While you were still rejecting God, Christ dies for you (Rom 5:8). This being so, how can you refuse to forgive those who sin against you? Forgiveness is not a spiritual gift, a skill, or an inherited trait. Forgiveness is a choice. Jesus looked down on those who had ruthlessly and mockingly nailed Him to a cross yet He cried out: “Gather, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). How, then, can we refuse to forgive those who have committed offenses against us?

As we truly understand God’s gracious forgiveness in our lives, we will naturally want to express this same forgiveness to others (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13). Before you ask God for His forgiveness, take a moment to examine the condition of your relationships. Would you want God to forgive you in the same way you are presently forgiving others?
-Experiencing God Day by Day

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Go Deeper: Religion or Relationship

Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that reads, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” This statement is, without a doubt, true. Many people have been led astray by religion.” Perhaps you have spent years of your life trying to be “religious” but feeling as though you were never really good enough. Religion demands that we achieve or maintain forgiveness and acceptance from God based on how good we can be, instead of forgiveness that Christ offers.

The early believers in Colossae were being confused by those that were judging them based on a set of man-made standards. Paul warns them of the dangers of “religion” and points them back, as always, to Jesus. Paul makes it clear that keeping a set of laws and standards to impress God is of absolutely no value when it comes to changing the heart. Only Jesus can do that, and only then can be truly obedient. So, are you religious or are you in a relationship that is changing your from the inside out?

Listen on-line or check out the Gateway Atoka podcast on iTunes.

Life Together: Community on Mission

When God said, “It is not good that man should be alone,” it became evident that He created us for relationship and community with others. We have an innate need to know and to be known by others. This truth is weaved throughout the Scriptures. Nowhere is it more clearly seen than in the opening pages of the book of Acts. The early church had a very special community. They were devoted deeply to each other. They cared for one another and supported one another in need. They prayed for each other, and worshipped together. The early church had something very different from what we usually see in our churches today.

Why don’t we see this kind of community more in our lives today? Why is it that so many feel disconnected or left out? Why is there so much loneliness, when God created us to be together in unity and support?

Greatrer together logoIt’s certainly true that our society and culture fight against the beautiful community that we see in Scripture. It seems that no matter how much we talk about community and how hard we work to create it, we fall far short. Today, we will look at the truth, that perhaps we have the right goal, but the wrong starting point. What drove the community we see in the book of Acts, and is it possible to see it in our groups and churches today? I think the answer is, “Yes”!